In honor of Malala Yousefzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who was shot by the Taliban for her advocacy for girls’ education, the Georgetown University South Asian Society sponsored a fundraising gala Saturday night.
The event gained particular relevance after Yousefzai was nominated for a 2013 Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy and bravery Friday.
Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman, deputy director of the State Department’s Office of Arabian Peninsula Affairs Linda Specht and Adnan Ahmed and Hasnain Aslamfrom The Citizens Foundation spoke during the event.
The event also featured performances by GU Jawani and Sania Salman (SFS ’14) and Dzarif Wan (MSB ’15), who performed Alicia Keys’ song “Superwoman.”
Rehman recognized Yousefzai’s commitment to her cause.
“Indeed these are high stakes, and I think there has to be a clear recognition of the kind of blood and guts that people like Malala and her parents put into the battle for daily survival,” Rehman said. “There are many other Malalas out there.”
However, Rehman also acknowledged that Pakistan has not done enough to improve its education system.
According to Rehman, the Pakistani government is making strides in its efforts to promote both women’s rights and education. The Pakistani Embassy, for example, supports Generation Next, a program that creates a platform for networking between Pakistani and Pakistani American students.
Coupled with the work of organizations like The Citizens Foundation, which employs approximately 6,000 female teachers and hopes to operate 1,100 schools throughout Pakistan by 2018, these international initiatives have a significant effect, according to Rehman.
Specht connected Yousefzai’s experience and education in Pakistan to U.S. foreign policy.
“Through our collective work we have supported girls’ education in Pakistan, but there is a lot left to do and millions left to reach,” Specht said.
She also noted that when girls go to school they do not marry as quickly and have fewer children, which helps to reduce poverty in the long run.
“A country’s prosperity is fundamentally linked to the education of girls and women,” Specht said.
The speakers’ remarks were generally well-received by the students and alumni in attendance.
“Hearing the ambassador speak was really enlightening. It’s interesting to hear the government’s perspective,” Mackenzie Trumbull (COL ’16) said.
Funds from the event will be donated to The Citizens Foundation, a nonprofit focused on building schools in Pakistan.